Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and it seems relevant to talk about writing fiction, and the positive way it can impact your mental health. I’m sure a lot of writers write as an outlet, so I thought it’d be appropriate to talk about 5 of the reasons writing fiction is good for you mental health.
Writing is cathartic
There’s just something about the act of writing that’s cathartic. It’s relaxing, calming, and allows you to outpour your thoughts and feelings. This is true of journaling, poetry, stories….any writing. When you need a release, getting words down is immensely healing.
It enables you to explore and understand emotions
Pent up emotions often lead to further stress and complications. It’s important to go through your emotions and do all you can to understand them. Writing gives you the space to do that. You can use emotions in your work, and through your characters explore them and their outcomes. Often, writing helps you understand how you’re feeling, and that can be vital.
on Writers Helping Writers:
As a lifelong student of storytelling, most of my posts are about the craft. After all, knowing how to best develop our story vision and put it on the page? Kind of a big deal. But there’s an important step to writing that we need to think about before all that structure, characterization and technique stuff: Prepping our writing space to make magic.
Because that’s our job, folks…making magic.
(Seriously, we are all so lucky to do what we do!)
But what do we really need other than a keyboard or writing device? The story’s inside us, swirling around in some nebulous fold of brain matter, after all. We should be able to just grab that laptop and download our genius…right?
If only it was that easy. Unfortunately though, writing is hard. Sometimes thrust-a-screwdriver-in-my-eye hard. So thinking about how to set ourselves up for success as we sit down to write is a smart thing to do.
on Writers in the Storm blog:
Get your protagonist up off the couch and into the story.
When I was six, I wrote a series called Dog City that followed the adventures of a team of dog archaeologists as they searched for a lost city of, you guessed it, dogs. It was all of four books, bound in aged cardboard from the backs of legal pads, and custom illustrated.
Laugh all you want, but that series had a more proactive protagonist than the “real novel” I wrote twenty years later.
Those industrious little puppers had goals—to find that lost city and fetch a rare magical item that would save the world from evil dinosaurs (it really should have been mailmen, right?). My “real novel” had a protagonist who was being manipulated by gods for a variety of reasons, and there was a prophecy she didn’t want to be a part of, and some romance, and an evil sorcerer, and a curse…you get the picture.
Even written in crayon, the dog story was better because it had a protagonist actively trying to achieve a goal and resolve a problem, and not just a protagonist who only acted when something else forced her to. My six-year-old self knew what the story was about and who was driving that story. My older self did not.
That’s the difference between a proactive and a reactive character, and why some novels flatline even though the scenes are filled with exciting problems.
Spring is a wonderful time for a fresh start. By getting rid of the old, you make space for the new! When you’re making your “To Clean” list this spring, don’t forget to add social media spring cleaning.
By cleaning up your social media accounts, you are able to refresh your presence online. Not only does this clean up what people see on your social media profiles, but it also helps you to see the content you actually want to see.
To help you get organized, we’ve created a simple social media spring cleaning checklist that is broken down by platform for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Social Media Pro Tip: No matter the platform, you always want to make sure your profile pictures and headers are current. These are your first impression on the platform so make sure it’s a good one!
One of the things that will get you an automatic rejection from most agents—and a swift toss to the DNF pile from a lot of readers—is an unsympathetic character. Especially an unsympathetic protagonist. Personally, I have to admit if there’s nobody in a story I care about, I’m out of there after ten pages or so.
But what do we mean by a “sympathetic character?” What makes us care?
The truth is the protagonists of our most popular books, plays and films are often people we wouldn’t like to hang out with in real life. Some are pretty toxic.
From “wily” Odysseus to Don Quixote, to Heathcliff, Becky Sharpe, Scarlett O’Hara, Dexter Morgan, Walter White, Lisbeth Salander, and the “Girl on the Train,” we are fascinated by morally ambiguous characters who make bad choices.
But don’t these successful works negate the dictum that a protagonist must be sympathetic? Nobody wants these people as their BFF.
Authors often get into trouble when they’re writing books for children or adults and end up blending the two in an awkward way. I’m here to clear up confusion around the differences between children’s books and adult books.
Particularly when authors write “coming of age” novels or fictionalized versions of their childhood, they sometimes end up writing novels that feel like they’re not quite for adults and not quite for children. Others set out to write crossover novels that appeal to both adults and children that wind up feeling like strange mishmashes.
on Just Publishing Advice:
You can find so many rules of writing that it can become a little confusing. I could probably list a hundred or more.
But, as with all things, it’s always best to keep things as simple as possible.
If you have a short set of guidelines that you can remember and implement for any form of writing, you can develop a routine.
These simple rules have worked for me for years when I write books, articles, or blog posts.